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‘The biggest challenge was to convince customers to buy plants online’: Annu Grover, Founder & CEO, Nurturing Green

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Annu Grover, Founder and CEO of Nurturing Green had to first plant the seed to change the perception of buyers about gifting and buying plants online before he could enjoy the sweet fruits of success.

Annu Grover, Founder and CEO, Nurturing Green
Annu Grover, Founder and CEO, Nurturing Green

Nurturing Green started in 2009 with the concept of Green Gifting- “Gift a Plant”. The brand has not only captured the gifting area but changed the idea of Green marketing and gifting. With 1 million customers, 30+ retail outlets in the top 10 cities of India and 500+ happy corporate clients, the brand is changing the market for plant-based businesses in India, one sapling at a time.

Q: Tell us the story behind Nurturing Green?

Nurturing Green started almost a decade ago. When I was in Austria in 2009, I gifted a bouquet to my Mom Dad for their anniversary from a reputed brand located in India. At the time, it cost me around Rs2,500. When I called my parents the next day and asked about the bouquet, they told me they had thrown it. 

That got me thinking… had I gifted them a plant instead of a bouquet, it could have lived on. Entrepreneurship was in my blood. So I quit my job, returned to India and started Nurturing Green with the idea of gifting plants. Later, we realized that there’s much more to plants than just gifting. The gifting market in India is relatively small …it’s just a Rs10,000 crore industry. So we decided to also foray into home decor and gardening.

As a category, Gardening has a market size of Rs26,000 crore. We had gauged the uptake in demand and forayed into this category way back in 2012-13. Gardening, therefore, is our second channel. Today, after the whole debacle of the pandemic, we are growing at a fast pace and working on multiple categories like gifting, decor, home gardening and landscaping.

What’s interesting is that out of the 26,000 crores (approx) plants purchased, 25,000 crores are purchased at the nursery level. Spotting an opportunity, we decided to foray into the nursery market as well. India has around 2.5 lakh registered nurseries. Currently, we are supplying to around 120 nurseries. The scope for expansion is huge.  

 Q: Considering the niche nature of the segment, did you face any challenges in your journey?

The biggest challenge was to convince customers to buy online from us as they believed buying plants from a nursery was much better than buying them from malls/online. It takes time to change consumer behaviour. For our business, it was much harder as the ecosystem was not built when we started. The market is nearly 100% unorganised. In the last 3-5 years, we have seen more than 50 brands which have scaled up and now we call this a ‘sector’.

Educating internal groups, circles, family, people, and team members was a challenge; it required time and strategies. Content played a big role; it helped us communicate with the audience at a mass level. 

Q: Which is your primary channel for retailing?

We are an omni-channel brand and have just started with the offline channel. Primarily, we sell our products through our D2C website (Nutrigreen.in) and Amazon. We’re also available at Home Centre, HomeTown, HOMESTOCK and Evoke by Hindware. We have associated with smaller brands like Royaloak Furniture. We’re currently present in 105 locations across 16 cities and in 120 nurseries with plans to take the number to 20,000. 

Q: Going omnichannel has technology implications…

Absolutely, we did a lot of tech-oriented conversations internally. Our focus is to be a tech-oriented company because only technology can help us scale. Our category has a very unique supply chain. For instance, if a plant takes two years to grow, we have to order it today to make it sellable in 2024. 

We have engaged technology to improve our business operation, right from customer support to sales projection, and accounting practices to inventory management. This has enabled us to work on a zero-inventory model. Our vendors raise a PO every day and we supply accordingly. 

With the ERP, we can plug/portray/innovate a lot around that. 

Q: How are engaging your customers?

We have a no-questions-asked 50% exchange warranty. This way, we don’t lose customers who may in future spend Rs 10,000-15,000 with us and recommend us to others.

We have a YouTube channel, ‘My Plant My baby’ which offers plant care advice. Customers can just scan a QR code, and get all the content that’s needed. The channel has 45.6k organic subscribers.

Our ambition is to create 2 million organic gardeners. The gardens can look at our video content to know how to care for the plants. We hope that it will help engage existing customers and acquire new ones. We are also working on some referral schemes.

Furthermore, we are building a community and offering loyalty points like Green Coins to customers who will go green. Customers will be able to redeem the points at H&M and Uber among other brands.